How To Plan Your Road Trip
Road trips, huh? Everybody loves them! Right?!
That feeling of freedom when you first hit the road, not knowing where it will take you…
Or what incredible new places you’ll find on your way… The amazing people you’ll have the honor to meet and share your journey with…
You gotta love road trips! I do, a lot!
My wife and I love photography and travel. That’s why we choose to roadtrip wherever in the world we may find ourselves, since it’s the best way to combine our two passions!
But, even though you can just get a car and go with the flow, there are some things you need to take into account so that you make the most of the trip.
Let me tell you some useful advice on how to plan your road trip that we learnt from our adventures 😉
How To Choose The Location For Your Road Trip
Here are two key questions you need to ask yourself before planning anything else.
WHERE do you want to go?
Is it a local trip, where you just take your own car and drive across the country? Or maybe you’re thinking about crossing some oceans first for a change?
WHEN do you want to go there?
Is it going to be in winter, summetime…? Are you planning a road trip through a hot endless dessert full of wildlife in South Africa, or maybe you’re more a low temperature kinda person and want to see some snowy landscapes and the northern lights in Iceland?
These first decisions are going to affect important features of your trip, like your budget, the duration of the journey and also how your luggage is going to look like.
It’s not the same thing to pick your own car and drive through the country, than having to fly somewhere far away and then rent a car. The first option is cheaper and it may give you the opportunity to extend your adventure for a longer period of time.
And winter travel is going to require warmer clothes, which occupy way more room in a suitcase than a couple of T-shirts and shorts. If you are flying, this can also mean having to decide if you’re going to check-in your baggage.
So, first things first: choose location, time of the year and, according to that, set up an approximate budget you’re comfortable with.
How To Choose The Lenght Of Your Trip
Have you thought about how long are you staying wherever you chose to go in the first place?
Your budget is going to have a big say here.
If you’re going far away, you’ll need to spend more on the plane and car rental, and the lenght of the trip can be reduced by these expenses.
But, if you choose to stay closer to home, you can use your own car and save money. If you’re doing that, and you leverage your budget to take a long way, I’d suggest having your car checked out by a professional so that everything is alright and it won’t let you down.
It’s your call, my friend.
Maybe you saved for a long time and can afford flying far away and staying for a long time. That’s the perfect scenario! Way to go!
That’s what my wife and I usually do: put all the eggs in one basket and make the most of that trip.
But that’s up to you, maybe you’d rather take more short trips during the year, even if they’re to closer locations, than a big one far away from home just once. All the options are OK, as long as you enjoy them, which is the whole point of traveling.
What kind of person are you in that sense? 😉 Think about it.
How To Set The Budget For Your Trip?
Frist, you need to think about the biggest expenses you have to face during your trip. Those are going to be the key to set your budget.
These are mainly: flight tickets, accomodation and car rental.
Unless you stay closer to home and use your own car or RV, as we talked about earlier, but we’re going to assume you’re flying somewhere this time (you gotta treat yourself and your family every once in a while, huh?).
Check out which airlines fly to the destination you picked.
Do you want to go Low Cost or you’d rather choose something more comfortable?
Get informed about their luggage policies, since low cost companies usually have way more restrictions in that sense and you may end up paying more when they start adding extras to your ticket.
Here are some tips to help you with your flight decision:
- It’s worth it to check airfares regularly, so that you can see their changes.
- Usually, booking 2 to 3 months in advance is the best option.
- If it’s a long distance flight (which usually means higher prices), you may also consider cancellation insurances.
- Emergency exit seats are worth considering for long flights. they’re just a little bit more expensive to book, but you get way more leg room and some airlines also give priority boarding to those seats (my wife and I always get them).
- Check out specialized sites like SkyScanner, CheapFlights, Kayak, eDreams… for discounts and special offers.
This usually is also a very big part of a travel budget.
Luckily, today we have lots of alternative options and we do not just have to end up in the classic hotel or apartment. You can still do that, but at least, if you don’t want to, you’ve got a choice.
People are getting more social lately, and that means accomodation is turning into people’s houses being opened to receive travellers in exchange of money or services.
Depending on how much money you are willing to spend in accomodation, you have many options you can choose from:
- Couch-Surf: people friendly accomodate travellers on their couches.
- Airbnb: stay on houses of people while they’re away, or live with them for a while staying in one of their guest rooms. Check out how it feels to travel like a local.
- Trusted House Sitters: Stay at people’s houses in exchange of taking care of their homes and pets while they’re away.
So, you choose, classic stay in a hotel or blend in with locals and make your trip more authentic.
There’s not much to say about this. Things haven’t changed much in this topic.
You just choose a car rental agency and pick a car type and you’re ready to go. Maybe you got a company at work which gives you some discounts, or your car insurance includes that service at a better price, or you always rent in the same place because you trust them…
It’s really up to you.
Just make sure they got you covered 😉
My wife and I always use and recommend Rental Cars.
This is a company which works with every car rental company in the world. You just need to say where you are traveling and when, and they offer you a wide range of cars and prices for you to choose.
Wherever you rent your car, you need to always take this into account:
- They usually give you a car segment to choose, with an example car. So you may not get the car that’s in the picture when you book it, but it will be a similar one or an upgraded one in case they booked all the others on that category (they can never downgrade your car).
- Check out if your booking includes unlimited mileage or a fixed amount of miles per day, otherwise you can have extra charges on your credit card when you return the car.
- Car rental companies will block a certain amount of money on your card when picking up the car, and liberate it when you return the car in perfect conditions.
- They will always offer you a full risk insurance, so that you do not have to pay anything in case of any damage. In Rental Cars, for instance, they have their own insurance, which is independent from car rental companies, it’s usually like $10 a day for medium-sized cars and we personally always get that one. When we went to Scotland, somebody hit our car during the night and we would have had to pay more than $500 in damages if we hadn’t booked that insurance… Totally worth it! 😉
So, if you made it here, you must already got the “expensive” stuff covered (basically accomodation and transportation).
Nice job! 😉
That was the hardest part, the rest is a piece of cake.
Tips For Planning Your Road Trip Route
You know where you’re going, when you will be there, how you’ll be getting to that location and the place you’ll be staying in. You even choose that car you always wanted to drive to accompany you on the journey.
Now it’s time to decide wether you’re going to be free like the wind and go with the flow or you want to plan a route to follow.
I, personally, prefer to do some planning and allow for some improvisation at certain points of the journey.
It’s really up to the type of trip you have on your mind:
– Does it involve visiting certain landmarks, tourist attractions, and certain places with a specific opening and closing times (Museums, Castles, Exhibit rooms, …)?
– Or your idea this time is to hit the road and see where it takes you?
This second option is just for free and brave spirits. Those of you out there, respect! 😉
Let’s see what the first option involves:
- You need to consider how many locations you’ll be visiting and how long each one, so that you can book the closest accomodation.
- Sometimes it’s easier to book several different places to stay in the way, so that you don’t have to drive all the way back every day. For instance, my wife and I just came back from a 10-day road trip along the North of England and Wales and we booked 3 different houses on our 1500-mile trip. But, sometimes we move around 60-80 miles away from our base camp, so in that case we just book one single accomodation. You get the idea 😉
- Some places will give you discounts for weekends or complete weeks, so you may want to consider that when planning the stopovers for your route.
- It’s very helpful to print a map of the route you’re planning to cover every day. You can always change it as you go, but it’s good to know the distances and the places you want to visit, so that you do not miss any of them.
OK, now you have your route and you know exactly where you are going to be at all times.
How does it feel? Nervous already? 😉
That’s good! That is the feeling I love the most. The moment when you have everything figured out and you just want to make it real.
Let me check that I didn’t miss anything. I want you to know at least all I’ve learnt in my trips, so that you only focus on having fun and enjoying the journey.
My Personal Road Trip Tips
These are the basics you need to take into account when planning a road trip, so that you don’t find disgusting surprises on the way.
But, apart from the basic stuff, there are some things that you may have not though about, since you learn them on the road, that can make the difference between an amazing adventure and a crappy journey.
Let me give you some very useful advice here:
USEFUL STUFF TO CARRY WITH YOU
– Medicines: you never know how far the closest pharmacy will be, so grab some of those pills you keep at home (antihistaminics, painkillers…), together with Band-Aids and sticky tape.
– Mosquito repellent: if you’re travelling somewhere humid or during winter and summer, having it would really help. Just spray some on your ankles and wrists every morning and you’ll be covered.
– Duct tape: Yeah, my wife always carries one in her purse. And it’s really helped us on several ocassions. Once, it kept the license plate of our car from falling for more than 100 miles till we got home.
– Flashlight: When you got carried away like we do, taking pitcures or just enjoying the scenics around, you can end up in the middle of the mountain after the sunset. They are very cheap and portable, really recommended.
– Phone battery portable charger: This doesn’t need further comments, right? 😉
– Food and beverages: Consider having a little stack of water bottles and snacks in the back of the car (I recommend chocolate, energy bars and dried fruits). You may find it difficult to find supplies if you’re in the countryside.
– Windbreaker: Keep yourself dry and warm at anytime. Even during summer. Specially in places with changing weather.
– Car phone holder and battery charger: Use your phone as GPS (Google Maps or any other navigation apps) and music source and recharge it at the same time so that it’s always ready.
– On-board entertainment: Music is highly encouraged to liven up road trips. Today, all rental cars come with a bluetooth sound system were you can play your phone’s tracks. Also, if traveling with kids, cars including screens at the back will also be a good choice so that the little ones don’t get too anxious.
YOU SHOULD CONSIDER DOING THIS AS WELL
– Charge your electric stuff every evening: Just upon arriving to your base camp, get the phones and all the batteries (cameras, drones, flashlights…) and put them to charge.
– Have a printed copy of your route and another on the phone as a backup.
– Check next days’s route: Its length, scheduled visits you may have, wake-up hour…
– Download the map of the country or area you’re visiting on Google Maps: that way you’ll be able to use it without Internet connection, just as a GPS.
– Check out where the gas stations are in your route. You don’t wanna run out of gas in the middle of the road.
You’re ready now!
Now you got everything under control.
So, the most important thing of all you need to do when you are on a road trip is forget about your problems and worries and make the most of it!
And if you realize that traveling is really your thing and it’s what you want to do for the rest of your life, check out here how you can do that.
If you think I forgot to mention something in this article that may be of importance for those hitting the road, please leave a comment so that others can take it into account.
And please, also come back after your road trip and tell us how it went! We love to hear from your adventures! 😉